Spotlight on Emma Barden
Engineers find solutions to problems for almost every element of modern life which impacts the way we work and live. Emma Barden does just that. Working as a Senior Research Engineer at Thales Research and Technology, she tells us about her passion for taking things apart, her work at Thales and how we can overcome the skills shortage.
Emma – the big question: what inspired you to get into engineering?
I was one of those kids who collected bugs and was always taking things apart. It was a combination of things I enjoyed, making things work, and applying maths and science. This led to my decision to study Electronic and Communications Engineering at the University of Kent. If you like solving problems, you’ll most likely fit the profile of an engineer.
What made you apply for a role at Thales?
I chose Thales because of the scope for growth and progression in terms of career. Working in the research field means that I have the ability to cut across into different domains to find solutions for a range of different products, many of which make a massive difference to how we live. I love my role at Thales as I get to be involved with a range of activities – for example STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) outreach is really important to me.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on VHF (very high frequency) radio communications systems for aircraft, which is an existing platform. What I’m doing is working on making the hardware smaller, more cost effective, and better to use.
What does this technology mean to the end user – you and me?
If we can make radio systems on planes perform better, by making them more efficient, you can allow for more bandwidth to fit in the fun things like a greater selection of films to view whilst on board. You won’t be compromising the safety of the pilot (and in turn the passengers on the plane!). Everyone wants to be able to connect to multiple devices, which aren’t compatible and so part of my job is to overcome some of the most difficult engineering challenges, which keeps the work interesting!
We need more of everyone in engineering! Everything you interact with every day - electricity, vehicles, computers, ovens and security systems, for example - someone had to design, build, and test, or in other words, ‘engineer’ it. What most people fail to realise is that they already possess the necessary skills, which are applicable in engineering contexts. The industry needs to demystify what engineers do, the sort of people that do it, and help people to understand how rewarding and important the work is. I don’t think you can be innovative without being diverse as an organisation.
What has been your proudest achievement during your career?
I am always proud of how much I have learnt, how every day I know a little bit more about how something works or why. It's good to realise when you can about a topic confidently, despite not even having heard of it a few months earlier!
What would be your dream project to work on?
Anything involved with changing the world and pushing the boundaries of human knowledge really excites me. Thales pushes boundaries with its research and development – we have the ability to create anything smarter, faster, and cheaper. I don’t mind what it is, as long as it’s the cutting edge!
Working to increase the number of women in engineering is a key business priority at Thales in the UK. We are continually supporting this initiative across the UK by working closely with local schools, providing inspiring examples of what women do in the engineering industry and demonstrate the different educational routes to get them there.